Shop ’til you drop in Singapore
Nita Ng of UniGroup Relocation Singapore is your guide to the top retail attractions of this island state.
Singapore is one of those few places that you may take the idiomatic expression, ‘shop ‘til you drop’, as an absolute truth. Most of the shops and malls are open from 10-11am to about 9pm. There are malls in Orchard Road, which are open until late at weekends.
The Suntec City Mall has countless shops selling all manner of goods, from shoes, clothes and bags to electronic equipment. Adjoining it is the CityLink mall, which is conveniently connected to the City Hall MRT station, Marina Square, and Esplanade Mall. With more than 800,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is the area’s latest addition (www.marinabaysands.com/shoppes). Apart from shopping, it is worth noting that the Esplanade guided tours cover the major performing venues, concert halls and theatres. The Merlion Park is also close to this area. It is home to Singapore’s iconic tourist attraction, the Merlion statue – an imaginary creature with the head of a lion and body of a fish. A photograph of the Merlion – the mascot and national personification of Singapore – is a ‘must have’ to complete your visit! (www.yoursingapore.com/
For computer equipment and software, the Funan Digitalife Mall is the place to be. On another note, there is also Raffl es City, situated above the City Hall Mass Rapid Transport station; a six-storey mall with a wide array of retail outlets. Just opposite, on North Bridge Road, is Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade, which has a selection of designer boutiques. Many historical sites and buildings can be found in the bustling Civic District as well. A monument dedicated to Sir Stamford Raffles, the man credited as a major founder of early Singapore, can be found at the Victoria Concert Hall. The eye-catching, Technicolor window shutters of the MICA building could be described as both historic and awe-inspiring.
Once a former convent school, now turned to a sprawling hub of world cuisine, music, and avant-garde boutiques, Chijmes offers a lively diaspora of rowdy live music and elegant fine dining, a juxtaposition of modern pursuits in a backdrop of gothic cathedral architecture. (www.chijmes.com.sg/)
For fabrics and hand-woven baskets, explore Arab Street for some hidden treasures. Shops here are filled with leather bags, baskets, rattan goods, purses and shoes. Haji Lane has vintage boutiques and local designer shops, making it one of Singapore’s hippest shopping destinations.
Work through the small conduits branching off Haji Lane and follow the scent of shisha and the sounds of live music. Situated in Bali Lane is Blu Jaz, a very casual restaurant and bar featuring live jazz performances (www.blujaz.net/)
Architecture connoisseurs would highly appreciate the beautiful and ornate mosques in the area. A golden onion crown marks the Sultan Mosque which is the epicentre of Muslim worship in Singapore. Two others– the blue mosaic-tiled Malabar Muslim Jama-Ath and Hajjah Fatima Mosque – are both equally ornate and intricate in design.
Serangoon Road is home to neighbouring streets adorned with spices, jewellery, and the decadent Indian silk. Mustafa Centre, at Syed Alwi Road, is a 24-hour shopping mecca for low-priced electronic goods and other bargains. Little India Arcade holds colourful restored shop houses stuffed with interesting paraphernalia and other “one-of-a-kind” pieces. Many salons along Buffalo Road offer services including, henna tattooing, oil massages, and herbal hair treatments. Little India is also the site of the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. The imposing edifice, adorned with highly intricate artwork, was constructed in 1835 and is dedicated to the muti-armed Hindu Goddess, Kali. Go to the website and take a look. (www.sriveeramakaliamman.com/).
Despite most Singapore citizens being predominantly Chinese, Chinatown is not much of a cultural enclave compared with its counterparts in other countries –the Chinatowns in cities around the world. Cultural or ethnic enclaves are usually places where a large proportion of a cultural minority in a country are situated and based. Hence Singapore’s Chinatown is unique in the sense that it is not exactly an enclave, nor is it limited to all things Chinese. Like Singapore itself, it is predominantly Chinese in its sensibilities but undoubtedly diverse. As a case in point, mosques and Hindu temples can be found within the area (Masjid Jamae and Sri Mariamman respectively). But, for the semi-authentic Chinese experience in Chinatown, it is a good idea to explore the tiny shops along Pagoda Street and Temple Street and the stalls at the Chinatown Night Market. The Yue Hwa Emporium, meanwhile, sells exquisite Chinese silk and handicrafts, like teapots and fans.
Along Smith Street is the Chinese Opera Teahouse where one can enjoy tea and snacks surrounded by displays of Chinese Opera costumes. With places like Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and Chinatown Food Street, it is inevitable that a Chinatown tourist would most likely end up on a food trip.
A worthy and highly advised detour would be to visit the very lively Club Street. This is lined with restored shop houses that are occupied by restaurants, bars, and several galleries. Chinatown, Singapore has its own official website where news, events, and shop directories are available at www.chinatown.sg
Source: FIDI Focus no 257, October/November 2013